My Instagram is my baby. It works because so many people have gone through what I have, and they relate to what I am saying,” says Instagram yogi Natasha Noel, “The Yoga asanas are a perfect way to say what I want to share.”
Noel, who started her Instagram account three years ago, has over 50,000 followers, all thanks to her talent for telling the truth, just the way it is. “I could have had many more, but if someone doesn’t appreciate what I am doing, I just block them.”
Noel’s account is a collage of her in different asanas, next to the window of her suburban home, taken with a timer. She’s usually dressed in shorts and a leotard, and recent posts have seen her showing off her new tattoo. Every asana, and she does the tough ones (bring on that headstand), is accompanied with a story from her own life, the way she deals with her body insecurities, diets, love and even secrets most people wouldn’t want to talk about. A few weeks ago a picture of her, which gives the impression of her being naked, spoke of a cousin’s visit. A cousin who had molested her when she was younger, and how forgiveness was key to happiness. “It was really hard when he came over. He didn’t even know how to apologise. But, he did what he could, and I decided to let it go,” she says as we talk over salads. “I wanted it to look like I was naked, as I was emotionally naked, not physically.”
Noel, 24, moved to Mumbai from Kerala at age three after her mother committed suicide by setting herself on fire in front of her. “You don’t forget such things, even if you are really young,” she says. Her father wasn’t in a mental state to look after her and so Noel was taken in by her paternal aunt and her husband. Today, she admits she was a tough child to handle. “I was a rebel. I acted out in all ways possible — I was a bad kid. It was because I was so busy blaming people for what was wrong with me. I would play the victim card.” It was when she joined dance classes that she realised that it could work as a catharsis for her. “I could be whoever I wanted. And, I could use my body and movement to express how I feel. Anger, sadness — it could all come out as I danced.” But life had a different plan.
Around seven years ago, Noel suffered a knee injury and was told she could never dance again. “At that time again I thought life s**ks. I failed a year at school and was down in the dumps.” But, it was Instagram that literally saved her life. When she opened an account three years ago, she started following yogis and was stunned by what she saw. She then went on YouTube and started teaching herself yoga. “I would take part in all the yoga challenges on Instagram, and could feel myself getting better every day. It was then that I decided to this properly.” The same year, she joined The Yoga Institute in Santacruz, and did a three-month course, and still continues to teach there.
“I started the Instagram account not thinking about what it would get me. That’s one of the things yoga has taught me — to do things and not think about the result. You do it because you feel like it. And slowly, people started following me,” she says. It does help that Noel talks about issues most of us would prefer to sweep under the rug. She talks of being molested by a domestic help when she was only seven years old, and being left by a boyfriend of five years because he told her he just didn’t love her anymore. “I have a load of insecurities, about my body, about being loved, about relationships. It’s always about ‘give me love, give me love’. Sometimes, I don’t eat at all, sometimes I binge all day. But, every day is about finding a balance. And, isn’t everyone like that? People relate to me.”
Among the plenty positive comments she gets every day, she gets the trolls by the dozen, too. “I have already got a couple of nude pictures of men, and people send me creepy comments like ‘I wish I was staying next to you, so I could watch you’. And the sad part is that despite all the good comments, it’s the bad one that sticks in your head,” she says good-humouredly. But, for Noel, it’s all in a day’s work and the main work is to keep talking, keep doing yoga and keep trying to make people feel they are not alone. “I want to inspire. That’s why I am here.”